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The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

The Lady Hope Story

A Widespread Falsehood

by Simon Yates
Copyright © 1994-2003
[Answer by Mr. Yates: 1994]
[Reformatted and links added: March 24, 2003]

Other Links:
Darwin's Final Recantation
A creationist site reprints the text of the Lady Hope story.
Did Darwin become a Christian on his deathbed?
Creationist Malcolm Bowden on Lady Hope.
Did Darwin recant?
Answers in Genesis says that the story is probably false.
The Lady Hope Story: True - False
A creationist minister provides a case against the Lady Hope story.
The Lady Hope Story
The Stephen Jay Gould Archive adds some additional information to this account.

John D. Hynes III writes:

I have seen this refuted here before, but I don't remember the details. Could someone please explain, or point me to a faq, the details about the supposed deathbed renunciation of evolution by Darwin. In another newsgroup, someone has posted that Darwin converted to Christianity before he died and wrote that he made a mistake in advocating in evolution.

A few more details on the spread of the story and its subsequent rebuttal, taken from the book The Survival of Charles Darwin: a Biography of a Man and an Idea by Ronald W. Clark, published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1985 (p. 199)

Shortly after his death, Lady Hope addressed a gathering of young men and women at the educational establishment founded by the evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody at Northfield, Massachusetts. She had, she maintained, visited Darwin on his deathbed. He had been reading the Epistle to the Hebrews, had asked for the local Sunday school to sing in a summerhouse on the grounds, and had confessed: "How I wish I had not expressed my theory of evolution as I have done." He went on, she said, to say that he would like her to gather a congregation since he "would like to speak to them of Christ Jesus and His salvation, being in a state where he was eagerly savouring the heavenly anticipation of bliss."

With Moody's encouragement, Lady Hope's story was printed in the Boston Watchman Examiner. The story spread, and the claims were republished as late as October 1955 in the Reformation Review and in the Monthly Record of the Free Church of Scotland in February 1957. These attempts to fudge Darwin's story had already been exposed for what they were, first by his daughter Henrietta after they had been revived in 1922. "I was present at his deathbed," she wrote in the Christian for February 23, 1922. "Lady Hope was not present during his last illness, or any illness. I believe he never even saw her, but in any case she had no influence over him in any department of thought or belief. He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier. We think the story of his conversion was fabricated in the U.S.A. . . . The whole story has no foundation whatever." (Ellipsis is in the book)

Clark's source for Lady Hope's supposed quotations of Darwin is given as Down, the Home of the Darwins: The Story of a House and the People Who Lived There by Sir Hedley Atkins KBE, published by Phillimore for the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 1974.

Henrietta's rebuttal is referenced more fully as: Mrs R B Litchfield, "Charles Darwin's Death-Bed: Story of Conversion Denied," The Christian, February 23, 1922, p. 12.

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